Jean Bratton retired after 21 years as custodian for Cerro Gordo Schools. A surprise luncheon was held in her honor. She is pictured with Superintendent Brett Robinson.
By CHRISTY JANKOWSKI
Since the year 2000, Jean Bratton has operated as a custodian for Cerro Gordo schools. Her job holds many hats, not just cleaning toilets and this year proved to be one of the most unique. She is retiring and Cerro Gordo Faculty threw her a surprise luncheon complete with a cake.
On Facebook they stated, “Jean served the district 21 years with her smil, helpfulness, and laughter will be missed!! Enjoy retirement, “Mean Jean.” You deserve it! Bratton officially retires July 16.
As for what a custodian does, there is a lot of work behind the scenes. Bratton stated when she first started, her shift was from 2:00-10:30pm. Her job was to clean each room, but also help set up for ballgames and tear down after they finished. She also stated as her shift changed to days, “Wash dishes, sweep and clean floors and tables, empty trash, and then it would come time for me the kids were getting out of school…I would start cleaning rooms. Empty trash, dusting, sweeping floors, mopping it, setting up for ball games, tearing down after ballgames–it was clean.” She would also get mail, run things to various offices and buildings.
As for what she loved and will miss most about the job, the students. “I watched several of the kids since they were in grade school and several have now graduated and out on their own and doing their own thing. Came really close to lots of kids and people.” She added there were difficult times as well, “I mean there were times that would be upsetting because there were several people we lost that went to other jobs or got sick and we lost. The majority of my job was good and I really liked it because if I had to I could walk to work.”
And then as we all know by now in March of 2020 COVID hit and school life if you went back in person looked a smidge different.
“The thing with Covid is I didn’t have the kids eating lunch because they went home with sack lunch, but I would help the girls if they needed in between cleaning up. I would have to clean certain areas, dust mop hallway floors, pick stuff up from gym floors even when P E wasn’t on, and just run errands for the teachers or the Principal or Superintendent, and anything they needed.” Adding also, “The main thing I had to do was Covid first hit, we had to run the disinfecting spray and I would do that for four hours, and everytime a class would get out they would rotate to another class. I had to go up and down and spray the side rails up and down. Anything the kids touched, doorknobs, sink areas, anything the kids would touch in there
I would go up one flight from the basement and go three floors and then I would cross the hallway and go down and go from the third floor all the way down, and we did that the whole time with Covid. Every time the kids would rotate and move from class to class then I had walk through and spray and try to keep the germs and anything down, anything they could touch.It wasn;t hard work, but a lot of walking up and down the stairs.”
“That was different because I never had to do that.”
Then twice this year, Cerro Gordo had to close certain buildings due to COVID outbreaks. As far as the deep cleaning, everyone can thank the custodians at Cerro Gordo. “We had to do it.We just had to do extra disinfecting…It wasn’t just cleaning this toilet stool, it was cleaning the petitions down every night, day, and all the bathrooms, and cleaning like we do in the summer.” Adding that in the summer, “we pull everything out of every room and start top to bottom the ceiling, and come down and all around for cobwebs or anything and wipe those down or all windows. Everything was wiped down and dusted and mopped.”
Where Did the Nickname “Mean Jean” Come From?
Bratton started laughing, “Well, I am not sure who actually started that.” She said, “Years and years ago when we had Mr. Matt Burger, he used to say Jean Jean the dancing machine…years ago and then everybody just kinda picked it up.
“I do remember when Mr. Cline was there in the middle school building and I was in the gym there sweeping the gym floor in between some classes, and he took the parent across the floor and I heard something, and he introduced me as “Mean Jean.”
Adding, “So I guess the student waited until they got in the high school and they said, is she really mean? And I have always laughed because the kids would make a mess especially at lunch ..I’m like you guys are old enough to know how to clean it up. You are not gonna just make the mess and leave it.”
“I’ll give you the stuff to clean it up, but you can find out how really mean “Mean Jean” can be. I like the nickname and it stuck with me and that is what they called me.”
As for retirement, “Mean Jean” plans to be relaxin Jean. She plans to travel, swim in her pool, garden, and spend time with grandchildren. Oh, and she also added, “I am gonna do what I want when I want.”